Where to go in Tanzania
Tanzania map & itineraries
Tanzania is utterly huge; yet many of its attractions are just a short drive from each other meaning that when deciding where to go in Tanzania, it’s easy to tick off the big names, even on a short trip. The Serengeti is popular year-round, but is vast enough to not feel too crowded, but the crater’s fame is due to its concentrated wildlife – which also results in a concentration of vehicles.
The south, however, is a genuine African wilderness. Selous and Ruaha have a handful of lodges between them, though you’ll have to factor in the cost of a flight or the time taken to reach them by road or rail. The islands are accessed by ferry or plane; save them for the end of your Tanzania vacation, as they really are the sweet dessert after your hearty safari adventure.
Gombe Stream National Park
Few people know that chimpanzees live in Tanzania, but they are here – on the forested shore of Lake Tanganyika. Track them by their shrieks, scat and discarded food, and meet the primates made famous by Jane Goodall, who encountered them here over 50 years ago. Don’t miss Gombe’s other residents, including baboons, colobus monkeys and 200 species of birds.
Known more for its people than its wildlife, the stunning landscape of Lake Eyasi is the idyllic home of the Datoga tribe – recognized by the distinctive circular tattoos many women have around their eyes. The lifestyle of these agricultural people is starkly different to the neighbouring Hadzabe tribe – traditionally hunter gatherers who have lived for centuries on what nature provides, traveling in search of food.
Twitchers will love this national park with its charismatic flamingos – just one of the 380 species of birds to have been recorded in these lake, forests, shrub and grasslands. Lions also take advantage of the park’s abundant greenery – the lions here are one of the only known groups to climb trees, making them particularly photogenic. Wildebeest, hippos, giraffes, baboons and zebras also thrive here – along with huge herds of elephants.
Few have heard of Mafia – but this marine park’s greatest wonder is how it has managed to remain off the tourist map. Its coral reefs are Tanzania’s diving hotspot, but it also offers white sand beaches where turtles come to nest, mangrove swamps and tropical forests that echo with the shrieks of monkeys, fruit bats and wild pigs. The island’s secluded accommodation sits perfectly with the natural landscape.
‘Kili’ is the highest mountain on the continent, standing at a (literally) breathtaking 5,895m high. Several routes cross its chilly barren slopes up to the ice fields and three volcanic cones at its summit – finally reaching its highest point, Uhuru or Kibu Peak. Some 23,000 people attempt to climb Kili each year, but it remains a formidable challenge and, ultimately – for those who do reach the roof of Africa – a rewarding one.
This is a giant, 25km-wide bowlful of 30,000 animals – including massive bull elephants, elusive leopard and black rhino. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the easiest place to see the Big Five year-round – hence the high number of vehicles. The crater’s Olduvai Gorge is home to some of the world’s oldest human remains – including a 1.75 million year old skull – which has shaped our understanding of evolution.
Ruaha National Park
This remote park is for the truly intrepid traveler. Barely a handful of visitors make it here – but the rewards are plentiful: the Great Ruaha River bursting its banks following the rains, and shrinking down to wildlife-filled pools in the dry season, attracting fierce predators from lions to hyenas. Ruaha is bordered by several game reserves, making it a vast wilderness able to support huge herds of elephants.
Saadani National Park
Tanzania’s only coastal national park, Saadani is also one of its newest – resulting in a heartwarming increase in wildlife. Conservation projects focus on elephants as well as green turtles – the projects are lovely places to visit and learn, especially for families. The coastal Zaraninge Rainforest shelters a huge diversity of species. Coconut palm-dotted ishing villages date back centuries, to when the coast was visited by Arab traders.
Selous Game Reserve
The Serengeti gets all the glory, but the little-visited Selous is actually even larger – with the wildlife numbers to match. Thousands of elephants, buffalo and antelopes roam the park, along with rare and beautiful wild dogs – not usually seen in the north. A boat cruise on Lake Tagalala gets you up close to hippos, crocodiles and birds. The massive space and handful of lodges mean you’re far more likely to see wildlife than tourists.
The kind of place where you’re going to find yourself humming Toto’s “Africa”; the Serengeti needs almost no introduction. It is the stuff of African legend, the savannah traversed by a million wildebeest – zebras and gazelles in tow – during the world’s greatest migration. At 15,000km2, Tanzania’s oldest park has space for lodges and camps to suit all tastes, plus Big Five game drives, walking safaris and even cyclists.
Tarangire National Park
Just a short hop from the northern parks, Tarangire is just as bustling with wildlife – but empty of tourists. Elephants swarm in herds of up to 300 against a surreal backdrop of silvery baobab trees. Fringe-eared oryx and gerenuk antelope cannot be seen anywhere else in Tanzania. Walking safaris allow you to enjoy the wilderness – and heighten your senses to the ever-present wildlife.
Zanzibar embodies the spirit of “exotic”; an enticing mélange of Middle Eastern, Indian and Swahili culture and food, spice tours, and dhows pushed along by the tradewinds. Explore the alleyways of UNESCO-listed Stone Town, then escape to a tranquil resort, framed by white sand and the deep blue of the Indian Ocean. Diving, kayaking and boat tours allow you to discover the weird and wonderful marine life up close.
Kilimanjaro & safari tour (12 days): Kilimanjaro, Rongai route (8 days) – Arusha – Tarangire National Park – Ngorongoro Crater
Wildlife and beaches (12 days): Arusha – Lake Manyara – Serengeti (3 days) – Olduvai Gorge – Ngorongoro Crater – Arusha – Zanzibar (3 days)
Off the beaten track & diving (13 days): Dar es Salaam – Selous Game Reserve (3 days) – Dar es Salaam – Mafia Island (5 days)
Travel times in Tanzania
The following times give you a rough idea of the travel times between the main attractions in Tanzania.
• Arusha – Serengeti National Park: 8 hours by road
• Kilimanjaro International Airport – Moshi (for Kilimanjaro): 45 mins by road
• Dar es Salaam – Moshi: 7 hours by road
• Dar es Salaam – Zanzibar: 90 mins by boat
• Dar es Salaam – Mafia Island: 30 minutes by boat
• Dar es Salaam – Selous Game Reserve: 45 minutes by light aircraft
• Dar es Salaam – Selous Game Reserve: 6 hours road
• Dar es Salaam – Selous Game Reserve: 5 hours (train)